The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems.

"Standing on a street corner waiting for no one is power": First Edition of Gregory Corso's The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems; Signed by Him

The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems.

CORSO, Gregory.


Item Number: 123719

Cambridge, MA: Richard Brukenfeld, 1955.

First edition of the poet’s first book one of 500 copies printed though about half of which were lost in the mail. Octavo, original wrappers. Signed by Gregory Corso. In near fine condition. Rare and desirable signed.

In a review of The Vestal Lady on Brattle for Poetry, Reuel Denney asked whether "a small group jargon" such as bop language would "sound interesting" to those who were not part of that culture. Corso, he concluded, "cannot balance the richness of the bebop group jargon... with the clarity he needs to make his work meaningful to a wider-than-clique audience." Ironically, within a few years, that "small group jargon", the Beat lingo, became a national idiom, featuring words such as "man," "cool," "dig," "chick," "hung up," etc. Despite Corso's reliance on traditional forms and archaic diction, he remained a street-wise poet, described by Bruce Cook in The Beat Generation as "an urchin Shelley." Biographer Carolyn Gaiser suggested that Corso adopted "the mask of the sophisticated child whose every display of mad spontaneity and bizarre perception is consciously and effectively designed"—as if he is in some way deceiving his audience. But the poems at their best are controlled by an authentic, distinctive, and enormously effective voice that can range from sentimental affection and pathos to exuberance and dadaist irreverence toward almost anything except poetry itself. Marian Janssen, in her biography of Isabella Gardner, details the relationships that Corso established with the more traditional literary society at the onset of his career. During his time at Cambridge, Corso met Robert Gardner, a member of the elite upper class “Boston Brahmins.” Gardner became a sponsor of sorts to Corso and briefly provided him with financial support. It was Robert Gardner who suggested to Corso that he send one of his poems to his sister, Isabella, who was a noted poet and the assistant editor of Poetry Magazine. Isabella liked the poem and asked Corso to send her three or four more before she took the poems to the editor, Karl Shapiro. Shapiro rejected Corso's poetry and he never appeared in Poetry Magazine while Shapiro was the editor. Gardener sent a letter back to Corso that managed to “salve his poetic pride” and began a lasting but difficult correspondence between the two poets.

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